Maple Street Homes, Springfield Mass

Several homes on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Around the turn of the last century, Maple Street was one of the best places in Springfield to live. This side of the street was particularly desirable, because of the view looking toward downtown Springfield and across the Connecticut River. Today, that isn’t the case. Although the view is still there, it is no longer one of the city’s premier residential areas, and the two mansions in the first photo no longer exist.

Located directly across the street from the former MacDuffie School campus, this area was right in the path of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore across western Massachusetts. These houses, however, were gone long before then.  The one on the right was at the time the home of businessman and city library president Nathan D. Bill, and was built in the 1880s as the Andrew Fennessy House. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1969, after having been vacant for several years. Today, only the concrete driveway is still there, and can be seen better on Google Maps. The house just beyond it was built in 1882 and belonged to Walter H. Wesson, the son of Daniel Wesson, co-founder of Smith & Wesson. In 1982, this historic house was also heavily damaged in a fire, and was subsequently demolished.

D.B. Wesson’s House, Springfield

D.B. Wesson’s house on Maple Street, as it appeared between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The site today:

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The building in the early 20th century was the home of Daniel B. Wesson, a firearm designer who co-founded a company that some readers may have heard of.  Mr. Wesson, needless to say, was a wealthy man.  Located at 50 Maple Street, at the present-day intersection of Maple and Dwight, it was built in 1898, and was Wesson’s home until he died in 1906.  The house was purchased by a social club, the Colony Club, in 1915, and was used until February 20, 1966, when the building burned and was replaced by the bland, nondescript building that now stands on the lot.

Maple Street, Springfield

The view looking down Maple Street toward State Street, between 1905 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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If the street network seems a little different here, it’s because it is.  When the first photo was taken, Maple Street and Chestnut Street (which are essentially the same road – they just switch names after crossing State Street) were together a major two-way, north-south road running along the top of the hill overlooking downtown.  Dwight Street was,  likewise, a major north-south road that ran from the North End until terminating at State Street.  However, in 1972, Dwight Street was extended diagonally up the hill to meet Maple Street, and turned into a one-way street carrying southbound traffic.  Maple/Chestnut, north of this intersection, then became a parallel, northbound one-way street.  South of here (the opposite direction of this photo), Maple Street is still a two-way road.

In any case, this is part of the reason why the left-hand side of this photo looks so dramatically different from the 1905-15 photo; the houses and apartment buildings were later demolished to make room for the extended Dwight Street.  The right-hand side of the street, however, remains essentially the same; the apartment building in the foreground is the most obvious, but there is also another building behind it, and the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Building barely visible at the corner of State and Maple.

The other major change between the two photos is the massive 34-story Chestnut Park apartment building, which was built between Dwight and Chestnut Streets on State Street.  It is the third-tallest building in Springfield and the tallest residential building.

Corner of State & Maple, Springfield

The view from Chestnut Street looking across State Street toward the corner of Maple Street, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2012:

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The first photo shows several important Springfield buildings. Starting in the distant left is the old Central High School, which later became Classical High School. To the right of it is the old Springfield High School, then the Church of the Unity, and finally, the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. This building, completed just a few years earlier in 1905, was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns, and is an excellent example of classical revival architecture in Springfield.

Today, Classical High School is still standing, with a new wing that was added in 1922 after the old high school building next to it was demolished. The school itself closed in 1986, and the building was converted into condominiums. The Church of the Unity was demolished in 1961 to make room for an apartment complex that was ultimately never built, and today it is a parking lot opposite the Springfield City Library. The only building that has remained unchanged from the first photo is the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. For many years it was used as offices for the Springfield School Department, but it is currently vacant. Because of its historical and architectural significance, though, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.